Wednesday, July 8, 2015

LILIES BETWEEN THE RAINS

I'm thinking it may rain forever. At least it seems that way sometimes. Our recent spring was one of the rainiest ever. Summer has so far been unseasonably rainy. It rained yesterday, is supposed to rain today—in fact, the sky is dark and I hear the not very distant rumbles of thunder—and local weather oracles predict rain every day but one through next week. 

I probably should have planted water lilies instead of gladiolus.

Ah, well, the truth is most of the flowers which have managed to not drown are doing rather nicely, what with the cool temps and ample moisture—though they've certainly had to make efficient use of whatever irregular flashes of sunlight came their way.

Naturally, any brief intermission from our extended monsoon season has invariably occurred on days when I had to spend most hours sitting at my desk, pecking away at the keyboard, in an attempt to remain gainfully employed. 

Still, from time to time the pull of that rare sunlit world beyond the windowpane proves irresistible. So I leap from my chair, grab a camera from a nearby counter, and bolt through the door to scurry about the yard for the next twenty minutes, snapping images like a madman. Therapy to calm my soul. 

The three shots of various summer lilies were made day-before-yesterday during one such fleeting, sanity-keeping breakout.       

Friday, July 3, 2015

SWEET REVENGE

My daughter, son-in-law, and most-delightful granddaughter, Anya, along with their longtime best friends and their twin daughters, all headed off this morning to spend the holiday and following week being Buckeye beach bums at Hilton Head, South Carolina.

A pretty cushy getaway place if you don't mind sand, surf, sun, seafood—and judging by recent news reports, possibly the occasional sneaky shark. I hope they have a fun vacation, and pray nobody gets fish-bit.  

Meanwhile, Myladylove and I will be holding down the fort here. Our plans include much relaxing, grilling and consuming various good eats, working a bit in the yard, and in my case, continuing with my healing—which may to the untrained eye superficially resemble seriously lazing about, but is actually a medically-proven therapy technique. 

In addition, while my immediate kin are galavanting off to enjoy themselves on the Atlantic coast, Myladylove and I volunteered to dog-sit Gwynn (short for Guinevere), their perky cream-champagne maltipoo. We picked her up last night and to our great relief, she proved everyone's fears groundless by making the 40-minute journey from there to here without getting car sick—which may be a personal first.

But I don't want to give the wrong impression, she's actually a nice little foo-foo pooch—eager to please, well behaved, and always an all-around good houseguest. And, of course, she's been here before—though never as the only dog in the house. 

But I'll still miss having my world-class grandbaby to tease, smooch and dandle. 

Therefore, by way of compensation, while the deserters, er, vacationers are gone, I intend to do my very best to turn the dainty Miss Gwynny-poo into a full-fledged redneck river rat. And I must say, so far the plan is working. She's not only proving to be easily corrupted, she's embraced this laid-back lifestyle makeover as an enthusiastic accomplice!

What can I say…revenge is sweet!    
    

Saturday, June 27, 2015

BACK, I THINK

Another cloudy, rainy, cool day here along the river. The same weather we had most of last week, and the same weather that's predicted for most of the week upcoming. Overall, spring was cooler, wetter, and cloudier than normal—and if beginnings are any indication, it looks like summer intends to follow suite.

I'm not completely over my recent illness. Still coughing occasionally, and disconcertingly weak—a half-day of shopping or rambling about pretty much does me in. But I'm improving, and feel the best I have since before I got sick. 

Between a slow recovery and uncooperative weather, I've managed very few photos lately. Plus life has been—to put it mildly—pretty boring. All of which has lead to a singular lack of personal motivation…the only excuse I have for not blogging   

However, I must have passed some inner milestone, because I'm now feeling guilty about continued self-pity and whining, while emulating the behavior of a potted plant. I guess it's time for me to reemerge from my den, rejoin the living, go on the occasional brief photo foray, and post my thoughts and deeds to this blog. 

I think I'm back.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

BACKLIT LILY


It's been hot here along the river, with recent days getting into the low-90˚s F. Way too hot for your boreal-natured correspondent. Usually. But in the aftermath of whatever nasty respiratory ailment I've been struggling to overcome, I've been suffering with constant chills, regardless of what the thermometer says—often needing to wear a heavy sweater throughout the day just to keep from shivering.

Yesterday was the first day in a long while in which my temperature seemed to stabilize and remain normal without medication. With the lack of fever it also became the first day I truly noticed the heat. Which isn't a complaint. While I'm not completely over things yet, yesterday felt like I'd honestly—finally!—turned a positive corner. I feel considerably better than I have in several weeks. 

For that I'm deeply thankful.

The photo of the common orange daylily was taken the same day as the groundhog shot…though late in the evening, just before the sun dipped below the western treeline. Knowing I was too sick to cook, and hoping a bit of fast food might taste good to me, Myladylove stopped on her was home and picked up a couple boxes of chicken strips. 

I decided to try and sit out on the deck long enough to eat. A moment after managing to make it to one of the rockers, I looked around a saw the lily, in shadow, with the shadowed river beyond, glowing like a stained-glass panel from the low sun's backlight. I knew the lighting—and the image—would disappear in a moment. And I didn't want to miss the photo. So I heaved myself back up, staggered the few feet to the door and to my camera just inside, lurched back to the rocker, framed, focused, and clicked…and before I could click again, the sun winked out behind a tree, the light turned flat and dim—and just that quickly, the image moment was over.

I don't know if all the above plays into things—a sort of situational favoritism—or if it's just an image I would have liked, artistically, anyway. But this simple composition—a single orange lily, gleaming with luminescent fire, surrounded by shadows—is one of the most personally pleasing shots I've made in awhile. 

I hope you like it, too. 
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Thursday, June 11, 2015

A KISS FOR MAMA

I'm still trying to get over whatever it was that rolled over me like a runaway bus a couple of weeks back. The bronchitis symptoms of coughing and congestion are gone, but I'm weak, easily exhausted, continue to have a low-grade temperature, and feel just plain awful.

Needless to say, I haven't been making many photographs. In fact, I've barely been outside, and then only to sit on the deck a few minutes—which is about my maximum capacity for adventure.  

I did, however, manage the photo above—taken yesterday afternoon—of a mother groundhog and her offspring, the youngster nuzzling the parent, as they posed atop a low hill at the edge of the yard. I shot the image standing in my front doorway. Just opened the door, pointed the lens at the pair, and clicked. Mama woodchuck saw me and, quite oddly, seemed totally unperturbed.  

Guess it was obvious I was in no shape to be of any danger whatsoever other the collapse atop the unwary.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

FEEDING FRENZY

The little flycatcher, whose portrait graced yesterday's post, and whose daily company I enjoy, chooses to regularly perch on various nearby limbs simply because he's afforded an excellent view of the Cottage Pool. A prime spot because this large pool—ten feet from the window, and constituting my flowing front yard—is located directly below a long, rocky, and thus well-aerated riffle. As such, it's a virtual free-eats food factory…at least if you like dinning on mayflies, caddis flies, and similar aquatic insects.

Most days—especially sunny ones—from midmorning onwards, various "bugs" whose life cycle is closely associated with water, either on or in, began to appear. Sparsely, steadily, and in massive swarms. Mayflies, caddis flies, stoneflies, dobsonflies, alderflies, dragonflies, damselflies—the list is long and, apparently, tasty. 

Predators know this, eagerly watching and waiting. When the bugs are few, the feeding action is slow-paced, leisurely. One swoop, catch, gobble at a time. But some insects hatch and leave their watery homes en mass—thousands, even tens of thousands of mayflies or caddis boiling up from the depths, shucking their larval husks as they rise, popping onto the surface where they give their winged, airborne versions a bit of pre-flight drying time, floating a few moments on the river's surface before taking flight. Vulnerable. Available. In quantity!

Shazam! The feeding frenzy begins! Fish rise, slashing at floating insects. Birds wheel and swoop, catching their meals in the air—just above the water, ten feet up, at treetop level, and higher. As the insects rise and fly off, trying to disperse—or sometimes mate before returning to the water to deposit their eggs—the hungry, rapacious birds follow, nabbing at their ranks like starving teenagers at a pizza party. Swallows, flycatchers, swifts, nighthawks, waxwings, along with everything else from robins to sparrows to cardinals and jays. Any bird who likes a good bug from time to time occasionally gets into the melee. I've even watched woodpeckers make a few runs on occasion. 

The image at the top of the post is of mostly swallows feeding high above the pool perhaps a half-hour after a recent hatch began. The photo at the bottom shows the density of this same hatch, a few feet above the river's surface, backlit by the setting sun. The middle shot is of the hatching mayflies causing all the fuss.


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Friday, June 5, 2015

BLACKBERRY WINTER, A STRAWBERRY MOON, AND DOUBLE-BARRELED BRONCHITIS

Sorry I haven't posted lately. And I should have, as a lot has happened here along the riverbank since my last entry. Including a string of unseasonably cold days—and their worthy-of-a-woodstove-fire nights—which the folks around whom I was raised would doubtless have referred to as "blackberry winter." Also, the recent Strawberry Moon on the month's second night…come and gone and unsung hereabouts. Plus the recent appearance of this year's initial twinkling fireflies, feeder issues with the hummingbirds, and today's queen snake sighting…the first one I've spotted all year.

All post-worthy events. Ones I noted but missed.

Alas, they've were superseded by a double-barreled onslaught of bronchitis and the subsequent desperation to survive this lower-respiratory train wreck. Until yesterday, I hadn't so much as stuck my head outside for a week!  

Myladylove started getting congested and running low-grade temps a few days before the Memorial Day weekend. By that Saturday she was having a lot of trouble breathing. I took her to urgent care. Bronchitis. She got a Z-Pac, steroids, inhaler, and cough syrup…and spent the entire holiday days through Monday bedfast (well, more accurately, recliner-fast). She also missed work that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday—the first workdays she's ever missed on any job her entire life! And she says this was the sickest she's ever been—period. 

Meanwhile, about the middle of that post-holiday week, I began to come down with the same symptoms—congestion, trouble breathing, low-grade temps. I bulled and hacked and coughed my way along until last Saturday when I knew I'd taken a real turn for the worse and had to have some help. So Myladylove hauled me to urgent care. Asthmatic bronchitis. "Your lungs are just full," the doc said, almost admiringly. "The worst I've ever heard outside of a hospital. By rights you ought to have pneumonia." I received my own Z-Pac, steroids, inhaler, and cough syrup, and a warning to "get to the ER if you turn even a smidgen downhill!"

As a guess, I'd say Myladylove is maybe 75% recovered; I'm more like 55%, possibly less. Improving, but amazingly weak. However, the weather here has finally turned summery. Myladylove and I are both steadily, if incrementally improving. My granddaughter had her first birthday a few days ago, but since my daughter and son-in-law are in the midst of moving, we'd already planned the celebration for a couple of weeks hence—so there's that MAJOR EVENT to look forward to attending. Life is good and looking up. And I'll get back into the swing of posting. 

Finally, this little flycatcher has been keeping me company every day. Trust me, his portrait looks far better than mine to head up this post.